Which Retailers Have the Most Satisfied Customers?

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A new study reveals that people who shop at Amazon, Costco, Publix, and Nordstrom are among the happiest consumers of late. Walmart and Netflix customers, on the other hand, aren’t particularly pleased.

The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) indicates that overall, consumers were slightly more satisfied with retailers in 2011, compared to the year before. Some shopping experiences were much more satisfying than others, though.

The index utilizes data from interviews with thousands of consumers to gauge how satisfied (or unsatisfied) shoppers are with various retailers. The data is compiled, and each retailer gets a single score on a range of 0 to 100. You might consider the scores as the equivalent of student grades, and based on how closely the scores tend to be clumped—most major retailers are in the 70s and 80s—there tend to be a lot of Bs and Cs, but no As or Fs.

While it’s difficult to see exactly what the scores mean in terms of the kind of shopping experience one can expect, they are especially enlightening when tracing a single retailer’s scores from one year to the next.

(MORE: Survey: Costco Given Retail Crown for Best Shopping Experience)

Take Netflix. The company had a horrendous summer and fall, in which it jacked up prices, and subscriber numbers and its stock price both plummeted. One could safely assume that Netflix’s customer satisfaction rating also tanked last year. And one would be correct. In 2010, Netflix’s ACSI score was 86, near the top of the Internet Retail category. Last year, though, it registered a 74, a decrease of 14%.

As a whole, however, the e-commerce sites had quite a good year. Customer satisfaction for the whole Internet Retail category was up 1%, even though it’s weighed down by Netflix’s bad year, and the numbers indicate that consumers are more satisfied with e-retailers, which get a collective score of 81, than with brick-and-mortar retailers (76).

The top e-retailer in terms of customer satisfaction is also the top e-retailer period: Amazon. Newegg, Overstock, and eBay did pretty well in the category too.

(MORE: The Price Is Righter: J.C. Penney’s Major Retail Makeover)

As for brick-and-mortar-based retailers, Nordstrom scored highest among department stores, Costco won the Specialty Retail Stores category, and supermarket shoppers are most satisfied with the Publix chain.

Walmart, on the other hand, received the lowest scores in both the department/discount store and supermarket categories—and both scores represented declines from the previous year. The ACSI’s announcement notes:

With a 4% satisfaction hit, the world’s largest retailer is now alone in last place at 70—6 points below the industry average and the next-lowest chain (Sears at 76).

“Wal-Mart’s relatively strong financial performance appears to be buoyed by overseas growth, while U.S. sales are mired in a two-year slump,” says [ACSI founder Claes] Fornell. “While shoppers remain price conscious, the problem for Wal-Mart may be that the denominator in the money/value expression is seen as too weak by consumers and that competing retailers such as dollar stores or big-box specialty stores are viewed as viable alternatives offering low price in combination with more attractive product or service quality.”

(MORE: You’ll Never Guess the Hottest Retailer in the U.S.)

Pile the ASCI results onto what seems like an ever-increasing bin of consumer gripes with Walmart: In another recent study (from Consumer Reports), the world’s largest retailer also received the worst ratings.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.